Asbestos is a fibrous material that was a popular method of insulation for hundreds of years. The main reason it works so well is that it’s highly resistant to heat and chemicals. It’s also quite cheap, and can easily be mixed with cement and fabric.
There’s just one problem: breathing the substance can result in terrible health problems, most notably lung cancer and mesothelioma.
The first known death was in 1906, when a man living in an asbestos mining town mysteriously keeled over. This was followed by several hundred more deaths, usually accompanied by hacking and wheezing, which prompted scientists to search for the common link. They soon discovered the health hazards involved, and news was spread, but people still continued to use asbestos. Seriously, you’re not going to find insulation at that price anywhere else!
It wasn’t until 1989 that the U.S. banned use of the substance. They issued the Asbestos Ban and Phase Out Rule, which required companies to stop filling people’s homes with the toxic material. This was overturned by the high court two years later, however, and nowadays many businesses still sell objects that contain trace amounts of asbestos. These products tend to be only sold to poor people, however, so it’s probably not worth getting worked up over.
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Not all women are created equal. Some are smarter, some are more athletic, and some are better… endowed than others. Men always seem to be focused on them for some odd reason, and ignore the girls who can actually hold an intelligent conversation. With the 1961 invention of silicone breast implants, this horrible tragedy was finally able to be rectified. Young women who had previously been forced to rely on such pointless things as personality and brainpower could now put on a tight angora sweater and have men ogling at them whenever they walked past.
It wasn’t until the 1990’s that scientists noticed a slight problem: women who possessed silicone breast implants claimed to suffer from a greater number of serious medical problems (such as cancer and sarcoidosis.) They also tended to fall forward a lot from being so top heavy. And while most studies seemed to indicate that there was no link between gigantic honkers and systemic diseases, the health concerns remained, and they were gradually phased out. They have since been replaced with saline implants, which are made out of water and thus only dangerous to The Wicked Witch of the West and those creepy aliens from “Signs”.
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Until 1937, there was no federal regulation for new drugs being introduced into the United States. An unscrupulous person could mix a bunch of chemicals in his bathtub, slap them in a bottle, and sell this to anyone foolish enough to buy it. This came to a halt with the creation of Elixir Sulfanilamide, an antimicrobial drug that was concocted by the S. E. Massengill Company. There was a huge Sulfa craze going on at the time and they wanted to cash in on the sensation, so they mixed their own special version which added raspberry flavoring and used diethylene glycol as a solvent.
Now, it turns out that diethylene glycol is incredibly poisonous to humans. If you ingest just a tiny bit, there’s a good chance you’ll be pushing daisies before the end of the day. The S. E. Massengill Company didn’t know this when they made the drug, though, because that would have required testing, and research, and a person actually dipping their finger in to taste the powder. The manufacturer thus started marketing their fine new medicinal product to the masses, neglecting to add the skull and crossbones on the outside label that is customary in these cases.
Within a month, a hundred people had died. The Food and Drug Administration was called in to investigate, and they quickly discover the fatal culprit (it didn’t hurt that many of the victims still had bottles of Elixir Sulfanilamide clutched in their necrosis-ridden fingers.) There was a huge public outcry, the chief chemist of the manufacturer committed suicide, and this incident led to the direct passing of the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which requires that safety tests be performed on new medicines before they are released on the market. So that’s why you (probably) don’t have four arms and two heads.
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Have you been experiencing severe pressure on your brain recently? It would come in form of headaches, migraines, or a consistent sense of frustration. If any of this sounds familiar, then you might want to give trepanation a try!
The process is similar to a lobotomy, except instead of removing a small piece of the prefrontal lobe, you take out a chunk of your skull. Any sharp tool (icepicks and handheld drills work well) can be used to achieve this, and when you’re done it’s important not to patch the hole up with bandages or a metal plate. The idea is to let your brain “air itself out”, thereby removing all the stress and bad emotions and ability for neurons to fire properly. They’ve been performing this procedure since Neolithic times, so you know it’s got to be good.
Trepanation has also been used to increase psychic capacity. Most people’s ability to throw cars around with the power of their mind is sorely limited by the mystically diminishing capacity of the skull. Adding a peephole to the brain allows for dormant psychic potential to seep out and influence the world. Doctors may try to tell you that you’re merely experiencing hallucinations caused by self-inflicted mental trauma, but don’t believe a word of it. Drilling that hole in your head has surely given you powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.
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The United States has a long history of bad medicine, but one incident truly stands out among others. During the early 1900’s, a new diet emerged in the country that was shown to be remarkably effective. According to the posted advertisements, all a person had to do was swallow a tiny pill once, and over the next few days they would begin to experience a dramatic loss of weight. The results were apparent to anyone who saw them, and curious individuals everywhere eagerly handed over their cash for a chance to shed some pounds, despite the fact it was the turn of the century and most people were scrawny orphans.
What was the secret? The pills were actually tapeworm eggs. People were intentionally infecting themselves with an intestinal companion, and while it was true that the little buggers did keep the pounds off, they also consistently sapped their host’s health and were completely gross if you thought about them. The fad didn’t last more than a few years, though, so people had to eventually go back to such boring standbys as diet and exercise. On an additional note, the United States currently prohibits the sale and transport of tapeworm eggs, so anyone foolish enough to want one will have to travel out of the country in order to get a parasitic pal.
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The Black Plague was probably the worst pandemic in the history of mankind. It first hit Western Europe in 1347, when people noticed that there were a rather large number of dead bodies piling up in the streets. The usual culprit, runaway ox carts, could not be blamed for all of them. Something was amiss, so the learned scholars gathered together in the same room, examined the putrefying corpses, consulted amongst themselves, and finally informed the waiting public that the victims had each succumbed to a new form of pestilence. Then they keeled over and died.
The moment that you exhibited one of the warning signs, your number was pretty much up. Even if it turned out you had just eaten a bad bit of porridge and that was why you got sick all over the barn floor, the town elders would immediately proclaim you a dead peasant walking and imprison you in your home for the next four to six weeks. By the end of this time period, if you hadn’t succumbed to disease, then you had likely starved to death. Red X’s were customarily painted over the doorways in these cases, so that anyone passing by would know to avoid you like… the plague.
At the time, the notion that rats might be responsible for the deaths was considered to be completely ludicrous. Did people think that the rats bit the victims on the leg? Ha! The horrible suffering was obviously a result of an imbalance of the four humours (too much black bile). It wasn’t until the 19th century that the true correlation between vermin and sickness would be confirmed, more specifically that the fleas which danced on the backs of the rodents were actually carriers of the disease.
The black plague ultimately killed about 70 million people. There would be serious labor shortages throughout Europe, leading to a large number of peasant revolts, and the church lost a great deal of power when monks purporting to have a cure suddenly dropped dead in their tracks. Mostly, though, it led to an overwhelming morbidity in the populace, who believed that all hope had been lost. As it turned out, it was merely misplaced, and would be found a few centuries later when someone glanced behind the wood shed.
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